PHILADELPHIA — From the way Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman and head coach Nick Sirianni spoke at the annual NFL owners meetings, it sounds like this team believes a lot in the development of their young trio of pass catchers, WR DeVonta Smith, TE Dallas Goedert, and WR Quez Watkins.
Although the Eagles were interested in trading or signing a proven wide receiver, and could still want to draft one high in the 2022 NFL Draft, the passing game was always only going to go as far as Smith, Goedert, Watkins, and QB Jalen Hurts could take it.
It was going to be a tough sell for receivers on the open market to come to Philadelphia, where the offense ran more than any unit in 2021, and features a starting quarterback that still has question marks about his long term ceiling as a passer.
But as Roseman said on Monday, the presence of this young trio, and wanting to get them more involved in the offense was going to impact things as well.
As it should!
Smith broke the Eagles single season record for most receiving yards as a rookie, finishing the 2021 season with 916 yards. He put up that record setting performance despite only seeing 118 targets.
The former Heisman winner showed he is the true WR1 of this offense, and there was a lot of meat left on the bones last season when it came to getting him involved.
Roseman mentioned in his Monday press conference how ideally in Sirianni’s offense, the top receiver should be getting 150 targets a year. Smith proved last year he deserves that workload and giving it to him would be the best way to improve the offense.
The newly extended, starting tight end is coming off a career year with 830 yards, and the Eagles will want to get him the ball even more. Despite the breakout season where he established himself as the long term answer at tight end, Goedert only had 56 catches last season.
That is in large part thanks to the high volume rushing attack, but former Eagles TE Zach Ertz was also taking up targets the first half of the season before he was traded to Arizona. Goedert could, and should, start to see the 70+ receptions a year that Ertz was accustomed too.
Don’t forget about Watkins either.
The former sixth round pick was the surprise of the year after becoming the top option opposite Smith, severely out playing former first round pick Jalen Reagor.
Throughout the season, Watkins was consistently atop the league in yards per reception, showing he is one of the most explosive deep threats in the NFL.
However, Watkins also showed he is more than just a speed and gadget player on offense that should be used in more ways and more often. His route running was far more advanced than maybe even the coaching staff expected, and he proved to be someone who could consistently make tough, contested catches.
Watkins had a solid 647 yards but he should have had more.
Most of that production came in the first half of the season before the offense turned into a run dominant unit.
The team went away from Watkins in the screen and reverse game too, after giving Reagor those looks to get him more easily involved (which did not work). Watkins also missed a decent amount of open looks he had down the field that Hurts simply didn’t see or missed the throw.
These three players need to be more involved in the offense in 2022 and the Eagles know it. That doesn’t mean they couldn’t use another talented pass catcher either through trade or the draft.
But, the biggest issue with the passing game wasn’t lack of weapons. It was a lack of involvement from the weapons they had.
Hurts needs to take the next step and get these three the ball more. That would go a long way in making Philadelphia a more attractive option to add more receivers, too.